O Health Challenge Update
28, elementary school art teacher
Des Plaines, Illinois
Her Contract: At the age of 21, Young had already seemingly accomplished the impossible, having lost 150 pounds over the course of two years by going on an extremely low-fat diet. But over the next six years, she fluctuated between 150 and 160 pounds, felt puffy, had chronic stomach problems, and continued to be "so self-critical about my body, I couldn't see how far I'd come." When Young signed her contract, it was with the goal of finally losing those 10 pounds and getting closure on her weight issues.
Pounds Lost: Final 10 (of 150)
The Nuts and Bolts: Young made a dietary U-turn from being a "fat-free freak" to eating cheese, healthy fats, and lean proteins, while cutting back on carbs. She also puts in up to two hours at the gym six days a week. Now her stomach problems and bloat are gone.
Lesson Learned: Whenever Young started slipping back to her negative ways of thinking, she reminded herself of the contract, asking, "Would Oprah and Bob want to hear me saying these things to myself?"—and that grounded her.
39, opera singer
Hermosa Beach, California
What Did It: Once Ziegler—a veteran dieter (always gunning for the same 20 to 30 pounds)—signed her contract, she went to a nutritionist and brought home a new eating plan that added fat and protein to her diet and took away many of the carbohydrates. She also started working out four to five times a week, doing 30 minutes of cardio and 25 minutes of weights.
Pounds Lost: 20
The Big Hurdle: For Ziegler, it's all about the fourth and fifth months—that's when the whole program gets to be a chore and she loses motivation. This time, however, the contract came in handy.
Success: "Twenty pounds may not seem like a big deal to some people, but when you've had it to lose your whole adult life, it's a really big deal." The bonus is extra energy. "I'm an opera singer, and we're essentially athletes. I really needed this stamina onstage," she says.
32, full-time mother
The Inspiration: "On a cold January day, I picked up O Magazine—and had a 'yes!' moment, says Littleton. The next morning at 5 a.m., she stepped onto her unused Nordic Track and never looked back. "I believe that if Jesus can save the world from sin, he could surely help me lose my rear end."
Exercise Strategies: She started working out on the Nordic Track for an hour every morning, added Rollerblading on weekends, and now, running—a sport she never thought she'd be able to handle.
Pounds Lost: 114
Diet Strategies: Her diet had been so poor that her change to healthy eating shocked her body into rapid weight loss. Every 30 pounds or so, she would reward herself—say, with a piece of cake. "I don't feel like I've been on a diet, but now that I've changed my lifestyle, I am no longer hungry for food; I am now hungry for life."
Side Effects: "I am actually smaller than I was on my wedding day," she says with amazement, "which has done wonders for my marriage and our health as a family."
40, corporate manager at UPS
42, high school counselor
Taking Vows: "I said to myself, 'It's time.'" Dee recalls about her almost instantaneous decision to sign the contract. Her intention was powerful; not long after, her husband, James, wanted in as well.
How They Did It: "We removed all sugar, salt, bread, and soft drinks form our diet and started eating lots of fish, poultry, beef, fruits, and vegetables," says Dee. They also shared their home treadmill, each putting in a half hour five mornings a week.
Pounds Lost: 35 and 60, respectively
Endurance: Dee says she wakes up every morning motivated to work out, "grateful to have lost the weight." She wants to lose 15 to 20 pounds more.
The Payoff: Dee has gone from size 20 to a 10; James waist has shrunk six inches. And Dee recently found a full-time job—being heavy, she has a feeling, had made it harder to get hired.
34, full-time mother
Wake-Up Call: When Boivin heard her 6-year-old daughter complaining, "This skirt makes me look too big," it was an awakening. The child's words painfully echoed her own laments, which always drove her husband crazy: "Do I look fat in this?" "Is my butt too big?" She signed the contract for 12 weeks of healthy living. Even though Boivin had never been more than 15 pounds overweight, she was haunted by body image demons.
Pounds Lost: 8
The details: Boivin learned about the value of legumes and tofu, and started preparing vegetarian meals. She also planned girls' nights out that involved gym workouts and saunas rather than dinner and a movie, and dates with her husband that included some type of exercise.
New attitude: "I've lost 8 pounds, but who cares?" says Boivin. She's more excited about being a good role model for her two daughters.
33, full-time mother
The Problem: At 32, when health difficulties called for a hysterectomy, Wendel "hit rock bottom." She had already had more than her share of trauma in her life: She had witnessed her twin sister's accidental death when she was 6, and was regularly sexually molested between the ages of 7 and 9. Adulthood added complicated pregnancies and a diagnosis of fibromyalgia.
Breakthrough "I'd been a caretaker my whole life, and I felt like I'd lost my own identity." She realized, "it's my turn."
Pounds Lost: Final 20 (of 60)
What Worked: Wendel took bits of exercise wisdom from various plans like the one in Get With the Program! and started working out every morning after the kids went to school—a mix of power walks, free weights, yoga, and Pilates.
A Major Change "I feel like a totally different person," she says. "I wake up refreshed and ready to go. I no longer slouch to hide my body. And instead of hating myself, I treat myself the way I would treat my best girlfriend."
40, teacher's aide
Yorba Linda, California
The Pledge: When Frate committed in January to being more physically healthy, she made it a package deal "to be more spiritually and emotionally healthy as well." She had struggled for years with infertility and in vitro treatments. "I felt broken and was just wallowing in self-pity—that I couldn't have a biological child, that I had made some wrong choices in my life," she says. Because Frate was eating mindlessly, the weight had slowly crept on.
Pounds Lost: 24
The Formula: Rather than going on a diet, Frate started paying attention. "I eat what I want, but in reasonable portions." She gets up at 5 a.m. on school days to run on the treadmill and then do 100 crunches. Other changes include eliminating alcohol and "making time for the things that matter to me—pampering myself, listening to music, reading, writing—learning to say no."
Results: "The sparkle in my life is intoxicating."
42, reading teacher
34, second-grade teacher
35, physical education teacher
41, kindergarten teacher
The Pact: These four friends, who work at the same elementary school, came to the table with different weight stories. What they all had in common was a desire to make their bodies healthier. So they drew up a contract that addressed everyone's needs.
Pounds Lost(Total): 33
The Plan: They created a program that demanded exercise at least three times a week. Other requirements included keeping a food and workout journal, and saying one positive thing to one another every day. There were also consequences and rewards.
The Beauty of Doing It Together: If one person flagged, the others pulled her back up.
A Year Later: The teachers are going strong, with no plans to stop.